When my wife was a kid her family used to stop by this little shop that sold a lot of wooden toys that were hand made by the owner. One of the things they got were these little peg people that they termed "Weird Little People." These little things lasted forever and had little wooden cars and boats, and yarn scarves around their necks.
We want our son to be able to enjoy all of the toys that we enjoyed when we were young so we decided to make him his very own set of peg people.
We made 8 peg people, a stand for them, and a few accessories, but there is plenty more you can do with these cute little toys. What's more, they're super easy!
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Step 1: Supplies
We picked up a bag of plain wooden pegs at our local Hobby Lobby. They're typically sold in the "woodworking" section. Just look down all of the aisles until you see one that is stocked with tons of plain wood letters, blocks, and various other things. They're probably down there. The bag had eight pegs in it and was under $5.
Other than that you will need:
-Food safe Paint
-Bits of yarn, fabric, string, etc.
-Food safe wood finish
For the accessories:
-Dremel or other rotary tool
-Imagination (i.e. I couldn't possibly list all of the things that you could use to make accessories.)
Step 2: Dressing Your People
I forgot to take pictures of the painting process, but it's pretty straight forward. My wife mixed some colors until she got the shades she wanted and then painted the bodies of the pegs. We painted all the way up to the base of the head, but you can paint decorative collars if you want. We also painted solid colors because that's the way hers were, but you could paint stripes, or actual clothes, or mix in glitter, or paint hair, etc.
Remember, your child might be putting these in their mouth. Use a food safe paint.
If you don't have a wood burner or don't want to use it you could also paint faces on them. If not, then move on to the next step.
Step 3: Making Faces
I had my wife draw the faces on in pencil beforehand so that I would have something to trace instead of just free handing it. She gave some of them simple expressions to make them a little more interesting.
You can be as imagintative as your skill with a wood burner allows you to be. Mine didn't allow much. I had never used a wood burner before this and I kind of used this project as an excuse to buy one. The wood burner I bought came with different tips and they can be useful depending on what you want your faces to look like. I used a blunt rounded tip for the eyes and a straight pointed tip for the mouths.
1. Make sure you follow the directions on the wood burner package! Also, don't burn yourself.
2. Do this somewhere open, because this can smell pretty potent. Outside is best. Also, keep in mind that you're burning wood and that can cause smoke. If you're around a smoke detector it could go off.
Step 4: Accessorize!
My wife made scarves out of braided yarn and small strips of cloth. Each peg person has a different scarf to coordinate with their colors.
The hats were made from small scraps of cloth; hand sewn together. Sew them inside out and then flip them right side out so the seam doesn't show. I rubbed craft glue into the pirate hat to stiffen it up so it would retain it's shape. I drew the skull and cross bones on with a white pencil before rubbing in the glue. My wife glued braided yarn around the little blue hat for trim. The hat itself was just a small triangle folded over and sewn up one side.
When you're making accessories remember to keep your kids ages in mind. I believe these little peg toys are "recommended" for ages 3 and up. Hence the "Fun for Most Ages" sub title. We made our accessories removable because our son is too young for them. For now, he has to play with the plain peg people. Later we'll add the accessories back on. Regardless of accessories we only let him play with them if we're there playing along with him.
Step 5: Peg Base
We wanted to make a base for the peg people so that this toy was more interactive and had more replay value. We decided to do a triangle, but you could make it any shape you want. We measured out the size and I cut it out with a coping saw. A coping saw is really the wrong saw to use for this project, it's kind of hard to cut straight lines with it since that's not what it's designed for, but that's all I had.
After cutting out your shape use a wood rasp, files, and sand paper (in that order) to round off any corners and smooth out the wood. You don't want your kids to get splinters!
My wife measured and marked where the holes should go and I just kind of went at them with a dremel. I'm about 100% sure that I wasn't using the best tool for the job but I'm not really sure what the tool should have been (woodworking chisels maybe?). I used an engraving/cutting bit and gradually hollowed out shallow holes. Remember to occasionally check the size of the holes using one of the peg people as you go.
After I finished digging out the holes, we painted the holes to correspond to the peg people.
We have also started writing names for the peg people by each of their spots. Once we're done figuring out each name I'll go back over it with the wood burner. You wouldn't think it would take a long time to figure out their names but they're incredibly tight lipped...
If you want deeper holes to put the pegs in, you can use a large drill bit. To make sure they are all of equal depth you could also use two thinner boards, drill the holes completely through one board and then glue the two boards together. Just a few suggestions...
Step 6: Extras
We also have a bag for the peg people. We didn't actually make this bag (my mom did), but they are incredibly easy. Rather than go into how to make them I'll just link to someone who showed out how to make them from old T-shirts. Drawstring bags are another thing that you want to be careful with around young children. Don't let children under 3 play with the bag.
This probably should have been mentioned earlier (like before you added accessories), but you might want to put a finish on everything. We finished ours by rubbing a product into the wood made from beeswax and some sort of natural oil. It's actually made by Burt's Bees and not originally intended for this application, but we did a lot of research into natural wood finishes and they seemed to be made of the same ingredients and we had this on hand. There are a lot of good options when it comes to finishes, just remember that it needs to be food safe. Some options, like beeswax, may need to be reapplied every so often.
Putting a finish on it isn't strictly necessary but it will help it last longer.